After the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a lot of Jaguars fans have been asking if something is wrong with the defense. They’ve been expressing their disappointment at how the defense has played, hitting out at Jalen Ramsey for not playing well and wondering if there is something wrong.
Simply put, no. There’s not anything wrong. They’re playing great. The even played well in the loss on Sunday.
The comparison naturally goes to the 2017 variation of the Jaguars defense and people lament that it’s not as good. The reality is, it’s just as good and might be better overall, but the difference is the flash stats aren’t there. For instance, he’s a comparison of the yards per game through the first five games between the two seasons.
As you can see, the Jaguars 2018 defense has been consistently good through the first five weeks and a lot less spiky than the 2017 version. Even in the points per game category the 2018 version is giving up just 0.6 more points per game through the first five games and probably half of their touchdowns allowed this season were true garbage time points.
The real difference and why most fans see a big difference is the “flash” stats aren’t where they were last season. The Jaguars defense is actually averaging 2.2 sacks per game and a turnover per game, not even mentioning the consistent pressure on the quarterback, but they don’t have a 10 sack game and a 5 turnover game to spike the numbers like they did last season.
That should have been expected, though. We wondered last season if the sack numbers, turnovers and points off turnovers would be something that could sustain through the season. It did to a degree, but it was expected that there would be regression in 2018 from those numbers because they were just so insanely good.
We’re seeing that statistical regression so far in 2018, but the issue is the defense is still playing great. They’re much better against the run through the first five weeks and just as good against the pass, allowing roughly the same amount of points per game. This is without all the flashy sacks and turnovers buoying their numbers.
A lot of the reason those numbers aren’t coming is because after last season teams are changing how they attack the Jaguars defense. It’s why you see so much off coverage from Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye and less press, unless it’s a very obvious long passing down. Teams are using a lot more quick three-step drops and short passes to pick up some yards, so the adjustment that defensive coordinator Todd Wash seemed to have made is keeping things in front of them and limiting the yards.
Take for instance the match up with Jalen Ramsey and Tyreek Hill on Sunday. Ramsey pressed Hill often and for the most part shut him down. He allowed the one 30-yard reception where Hill beat the press at the line, but otherwise his only other reception on Ramsey was a quick short throw where Ramsey was playing off coverage.
When the Jaguars play off like that, it’s because they know that if you play press all the time on these quick three step drops it’s tough to get there with your front four, regardless if the pressure is there (which it is), because if you miss on the jam in those situations it’s an explosive play. When you play off like Ramsey and Bouye have on those quick throws, you’re giving up some yards but you’re limiting the explosive plays.
There’s nothing wrong with the Jaguars defense in 2018, even after the loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. They’re still the best defense in the league, they just haven’t had that absurd stat padding game yet like they did in 2017. The flash isn’t there yet, but the substance is and it’s better than it was last year.